As a real estate professional, you should have a firm knowledge of your industry and potential clients. In the world of ultra-high net worth individuals there are many reasons to purchase properties, but did you know that you can gain citizenship with a property purchase? Many countries offer citizenship or residency with a home purchase or other investment. These are sometimes known as Golden Visa programs and allow people who have the means to have a back-up residency.
Why People Want a Second Citizenship
There are many reasons why someone would want second citizenship. It could be a status symbol or a tax opportunity. They could also be world citizens who work and live outside their home country. These people are ultra-high net worth individuals.
There is a difference between citizenship and residency. Citizenship comes with a passport and cannot be taken away unless it’s received under fraudulent circumstances. A residency visa isn’t necessarily permanent and can be taken away if the law changes. The process varies by country. You can’t cut a check then receive a passport the next week. There are, generally speaking, three tracks: citizenship by investment, residency by investment and immigration by investment. You would choose one depending on your needs or the needs of your family and business.
Most countries require a purchase of specifically real estate but not all. For example, you can acquire a residency in Portugal with a 250,000 euro investment in the arts. Here is a list of countries where citizenship or residency is available. For a complete and up to date list see the CPI Index.
For only a 250,000 euro property purchase you can gain a residency in Greece. This is one of the more affordable options in Europe. There is no in-country time requirement, so you can make your purchase and never set foot in the country. Your money will go pretty far, as Greece is still recovering from a severe recession and property is still under-valued. If you want a Greek passport, you will have to learn the language to complete naturalization. There is also a military requirement for all men under 45, so that may factor into your decision.
If you want Latvian residency, it’s a minimum of 286,000 euros. There’s only a once a year in country time requirement. If you want to be naturalized, it’s a little more complicated. Once you’ve achieved five years of permanent residency, you then will wait another five years, which means a total of a ten-year wait. The naturalization test includes a language test and Latvian is considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn as an adult. Most importantly, Latvia doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, so if you want to pursue Latvian citizenship it should be a permanent move.
Spain is a country that offers a Golden Visa program. With a 500,000 euro real estate investment you can achieve residency. After ten years of you are eligible for citizenship, but you will need to take a language test. Spain doesn’t allow dual citizenship unless you are a citizen of Andorra, Portugal or a former colony.
You can apply for citizenship in Malta after twelve months of residency but you have to make a non-refundable 650,000 euro contribution to the National Development and Social fund, a 150,000 euro purchase of government stocks and bonds, and a property purchase of at least 350,000 euro. This is a pretty penny to spend, but the tax benefits might be worth it. Any foreign-sourced income is taxed at a flat rate of 15%. English is also an official language, so you won’t have to worry about mastering a second language.
Cyprus has one of the most expensive investment programs. You can make a real estate investment of two million euros or purchase a property for 300,000 euros. If you make a real estate purchase it must be in a government-approved development. You can apply for naturalization after seven years of residency. Once you gain citizenship you are expected to reside in Cyprus indefinitely.
Why Does This Matter?
If you are a real estate agent, this residency and citizenship information is important to have. If you’re interested in attracting foreign ultra-high net worth buyers, having an understanding of residency and citizenship programs can make or break a sale. In the United States, Canadian and Chinese buyers are the top two groups of foreign real estate investors. Residency and citizenship can be used as a selling point for your luxury properties.